The Chaos of Balance–Kenneth Kao

A man searching for a balanced life has many stories.

Guinness World Records, Idiots at Work, and Conspiracy Theories

So, back in May, I was contacted by Guinness World Records.  [Content here removed by Guinness World Record’s request] There, that’s my conspiracy theory.

Anyway, they asked me to potentially set 2 records.  The first was the longest time in a human flag with a person sitting on me, and the other was climbing “some distance” (8 meters, I later discovered) inverted on a pole in the fastest time.  I was taken through an online skype interview and prompted to say some really stupid stuff that made me terribly uncomfortable.  Kind of the typical reality TV show BS where they try to make you sound like a selfish, egotistical, bastard.  Given, the producer was kind and encouraging–but it definitely wasn’t myself.

Regardless, my impression of egotistical bastardness seemed to work, and I was told that they wanted me on the show and would fly me out to LA to shoot the record attempt–for the inverted climb…  Why they chose the lame record instead of the cool one, I have no clue.  Anyway, it became clear quite quickly that these people were fairly disorganized, so I made sure to query them about the record attempt details ASAP because the fact was, they had no idea of how pole works or what matters.  Not that I would expect them too.

They never answered my questions, though, and things moved forward.  I sent them proof footage, shots they requested, and jumped through hoops; it was starting to get really annoying how last minute they were.

And I was also beginning to realize that Guinness wasn’t about being the best at anything.  It was whoever they happened to find to record, not who was actually the best at a feat.  I mean–anyone semi-advanced can do a caterpillar climb in pole.  Why me?  I’m not that good at it, really, and even though I trained and got pretty good pretty fast because I knew that I’d have to do it in front of a live audience, surely someone else in the world was better than me?

Well, WTF, I might as well do it.  So they sent me paperwork asking questions that were mostly, interpretably, “Why are YOU the best for this TV show?” type of questions, and the entertainment showbiz side of it all was clearly all that mattered.  Not surprising, really.  But I decided to make the best of it, and I decided that I would in fact use this opportunity to represent and speak about how pole dancing can be an athletic and artistic thing, and does not have to be a sexual thing (not that it isn’t at times).  But the stigma toward pole dancing needed to change, and that by me being a male pole dancer, I wasn’t by default a gay stripper–which is by far the most common assumption.

Answers to my questions filtered in, but one “small” yet persistently unanswered question I had for them didn’t: if I could use grip for the feat attempt.

See, if you know anything about pole dancing, you’d know that you have to be able to stick to the pole to do anything on it.  Pole is about strength, yes, but technique is also critical.  And for proper technique you have to be able to stick to the pole.  The humidity is a factor, and I might’ve gotten lucky, but just in case, I asked them time and time again if I could use grip.  Finally the day before my flight out, I’m told that no–no grip at all was allowed.  I argued that gymnasts would be allowed to use chalk, or figure skaters allowed skates–but to no response.  Based on their logic, I’d imagine them sincerely asking a person not to slip on ice because they are heavier or “stronger”–they don’t realize that oiling up a pole (sweat) makes it unclimbable.

Even better, the prior attempt record holders for similar feats were allowed grip, but I wouldn’t be.  Awesome, right?

With all the efforts I’ve already put in, and I had my tickets and they had purchased the pole–whatever.  I was going.  So I sent them an e-mail saying that I was using grip, that that was non-negotiable and I wouldn’t go out there just to make a fool of myself, and because they hadn’t responded to my latest demands and the flight was the next morning, I would see them there.  Finally, I got a response 8 hours before my flight at 2 am: “Your attendance is no longer required.”

And that was it.

So now I’m not going, and that’s the whole story.  As much as I would’ve loved to hold a certificate claiming that I was a world record holder, I’m sincerely glad that the BS is over; I can get back to the important things in life.  I think that’s honestly why I gave them the ultimatum, knowing that like all hollywood crap, you’re at the mercy of the producers and they couldn’t give S**t about you and how you’re inconvenienced or what is actual reality.  I worded my ultimatum with some harshness, because maybe there are more important things in life than appearing on TV (not to mention doing all this without pay and being their b***h).  Holding another sheet of paper that claims you are valuable isn’t really all that life changing.


7 comments on “Guinness World Records, Idiots at Work, and Conspiracy Theories

  1. David C. Owen
    June 30, 2013

    They’ve gotta make some good TV somehow. This makes me thoroughly glad I rejected America’s Got Talent. I hate to see the garbage some poor sap gets put through this year in exchange for “exposure.”

  2. Melanie Piek
    June 30, 2013

    Good for you, Ken! Couldn’t agree more!

  3. Norell
    June 30, 2013

    Well Done. The industry will not change unless those they rely upon maintain high standards. If all performers would stop sleeping with their directors/producers (and similar behaviors) all at once, the expectation of that would end.

  4. Jessica May Lin
    June 30, 2013

    Proud of you for standing up to them.

  5. VivBlogs
    July 1, 2013

    This is fantastic. And good for you to not value a piece of paper from ignoranuses (not a misspelling).

  6. Kyle
    July 1, 2013

    ❤ you are a badass my friend.

  7. polecatceci
    January 4, 2014

    Loved how you kept true to yourself. Other things are in the works for you, not this BS! I’m already a new fan of yours!

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